Fox Host Says It's Not Government's Job to Protect Anybody

COVID-19 infection rates are spiking across the country. Officials are worried about breakthrough cases and the new delta variant. The stock market tanked yesterday in response to those growing concerns. It doesn’t look like the virus isn’t going away anytime soon.

But Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade doesn’t think the government should do anything about it.

Steve Doocy, Kilmeade’s co-host, began talking about the importance of vaccines on their show yesterday. That sent Kilmeade off the deep end, talking about how getting sick and dying from COVID-19 due to lack of vaccination is a choice. Doocy correctly points out that those people don’t want to die, and that government mandates exist to protect them. And that’s when Kilmeade drops the rhetorical bomb.

Saying it’s not the government’s job to protect anybody is an interesting position to take. This blows a hole in the logic of anyone who champions the United States’ bloated defense budget. It also collides with the logic used to rationalize American imperialism. But you don’t have to go that deep with something this blockish. Kilmeade’s incidental libertarianism underlies most of the things he says, but never quite this plainly. It’s a slippery slope, you see—if the government’s protection starts with mask mandates, where does it end? Policing neighborhoods? Publicly funding a gigantic military?

Kilmeade didn’t think that far ahead. He’s reacting emotionally, angrily clinging to absurd notions of personal freedoms—the kind he and other conservative media types have been hawking for months. Maybe he belongs on Newsmax, where the anchors are a little more nihilistic. But he makes a better argument against himself than anyone else possible could. His ignorance here, particularly in the face of Doocy actually trying to do the right thing, is evidence enough that the government needs to protect its people. And that includes the very dumbest among us.

Believe it or not, though, Kilmeade might be in the shrinking minority at Fox News. Last night none other than Sean Hannity took time from his show to state that it’s important for people to take COVID-19 seriously. “I believe in science,” Hannity said. “I believe in the science of vaccination.”

Does this make up for months of vaccine skepticism on Fox News? Hardly. But it’s a step in the right direction. Fox News inundates its viewers with dreck on a daily basis, in part because they understand their audience’s loyalty. Hosts like Hannity and Tucker Carlson can get away with saying virtually anything (and often do). They know their viewers will return night after night for more slop, whether it’s COVID conspiracies or white supremacist dog whistling. But maybe, after nearly a year and a half of human suffering, they’re finally changing their tune. Maybe they’re actually interested in doing the right thing. Or maybe it’s a panic response to the stock market crashing. Either way, it’s better than the alternative.